Car of the Year: Luxury Car Under $80,000Motor News Car Of The Year
Winner: Luxury Car Under $80K - Mercedes-Benz C250 CDI
In a battle of the big three Germans, the rock-solid Mercedes-Benz's C-Class successfully defended its crown.PT2M56S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2adh1 620 349 November 28, 2012
- C250 CDI
- W204 MY12
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- BlueEFFICIENCY 7G-TRONIC +
- Sports Automatic
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- Rear Wheel Drive
Mercedes-Benz C250 CDI (winner)
Volkswagen CC 125TDI
This year's battle of the sub-$80,000 luxury cars was dominated by German brands, with 2011 category winner and overall Car of the Year, the Mercedes Benz C250 CDI, fronting up to Volkswagen's CC 125TDI and the BMW 328i. Three gutsy four-cylinder turbo engines, with two proven diesels up against BMW's sweet-revving eight-speed petrol.
In the Luxury category judges focus on the driver and passenger experience in the car, as well as performance, safety and value for money. The models tested, ranging from $60,000 for the CC to $77,000 for the C-Class, include leather upholstery, fancy paintwork and a host of active and passive safety innovations. Testing on the road highlights ride quality and road noise, while the tight turns of Wakefield Park demonstrate how smoothly the electronic safety and stability systems intervene when needed.
The BMW 328i proved a particularly popular car on the track, with one judge asking: "Who needs a six-cylinder? It's a cracking engine!" Another felt that the combination of plain interior and fun drive felt more "performance" than "luxury".
2012 Best Luxury Car Under $80,000
Last year's overall champion, the Mercedes-Benz C250 CDI, holds on to its Best Luxury Car Under $80,000 title.
Almost $10,000 worth of options, including adaptive "M" suspension and trim, took the as-tested price to $73,860, but many judges thought that optional suspension was crucial to the on-road success of the car. The usual BMW debate about the suitability of run flat tyres raged, with one judge noting that they are "still expensive and inconvenient", while another complained the ride was still "sharp over small bumps" thanks to the stiffer sidewalls.
Halfway through the week pounding rain slicked the track and set another challenge for the cars. Some thought the 3-Series offered more grip than the C-Class, but others thought it "wallowed in the rear".
The interior raised questions about the definition of luxury: the kit omits a reversing camera and features a manual handbrake, but the interior lines are simple and effective, the driver position and the seats themselves are extremely comfortable, and there is always the option for the blackened bamboo veneer to snazzy things up a touch.
The Volkswagen CC was a competent drive but also suffered slightly in the luxury stakes, with one judge describing it as "a normal VW with extra chrome tacked on". At $60,390 the CC was the cheapest competitor, and the slowest, and although it did very little wrong, it was noisier than the other two. With a terrific safety kit including lane change assist (part of the $5400 Driver Assist option package) and eight airbags, plus mod cons such as heating in all four outboard seats, the CC offers up lots of equipment for the price. In the past the CC has taken the Luxury category through sheer lack of vice, and value for money, and its pricing and fuel economy still make it a contender.
So to last year's Car of the Year, a beautifully composed sedan that still packs a lot of punch for the price. Aptly described by one judge as a car "with luxury built in, not added on", with "shed loads of torque" and an impressively frugal engine that consumes less than most city cars, our C-Class as tested included a "Vision Package" with cornering headlights, an AMG sports kit and metallic paint.
The C-Class is jam-packed with airbags and also boasts driver drowsiness detection, yet has no reversing camera, a fairly basic manual seat adjustment and an old-school foot brake. Nevertheless, the leather-rich, highly detailed interior oozes luxury while the ride quality is excellent. On a greasy, wet track the big German got a bit tail-happy, but it was more sure-footed in the dry, and the sophisticated safety intervention systems worked well, as did the strong brakes.
The verdict was never going to be unanimous, with the value of the CC pitted against the performance of the 3-Series and the confidence of the Benz. But with its cool, calm, and collected demeanour, a torque-laden but frugal diesel engine and near-coach build quality, the reigning champion C-Class holds on to the crown.